ETFs In The Crosshairs At Morningstar Conference

Dinged by the stock market but unbowed, investors arrived at the three-day Morningstar ETF conference hoping for an educational pick-me-up.

It’s been a cruel couple months for stock portfolios, and it can be easy to lose sight of the strides that the exchange traded fund industry has made in the past year alone.

It crossed $2 trillion in assets in December. A young, unknown firm launched an ETF, PureFunds ISE Cyber Security (HACK), that became one of 2015’s blockbusters by tapping into a niche, growth industry. Mutual fund giants Legg Mason, Eaton Vance and Janus are among the asset managers tiptoeing into the ETF world.

The sixth annual conclave is in part a celebration of all things ETF, and in part a giant workshop for ETF newbies and nerds.

“The event aims to provide financial professionals with ideas and insights for how to use ETFs as part of their investment strategies,” said Carling Spelhaug, a representative for Morningstar Inc. “The agenda focuses on three key areas of ETF investing — strategy, tactics and managed-portfolio solutions — to help investors achieve better outcomes.”

But it starts with the basics. An opening workshop for investors and financial advisors Tuesday is titled ‘The ABCs of ETFs’ — offering everything from a brief history of this investment vehicle to a review of their benefits and limitations.

Later that day, Ben Johnson, Morningstar’s global director of ETF research, will lead a session on trends shaping the ETF market.

Expect discussions of smart, or strategic, beta funds, actively managed strategies and everything you ever wanted to know about the difference between China A-shares, H-shares, onshore stock markets and offshore markets.

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Wednesday’s highlights include a morning session on currency hedging. Panelists include Luciano Siracusano of WisdomTree Investments, whose suite of hedged international ETFs saw explosive growth in the past year as the dollar rose vs. foreign currencies.

An afternoon session targets income investors, examining how dividend yield, dividend growth and dividend sustainability offer different approaches to crafting an equity income strategy.

Wednesday evening, top investment firm Sage Advisory will share the stage on a session about rethinking the role of fixed income within an ETF investment portfolio in a rising rate environment.

On Thursday, investing pros from Goldman Sachs, State Street Global Advisors and other firms will lead sessions on the future of financial advice as robo-advisors transform the landscape, whether actively managed ETFs up the odds of investment success and the use of tactical strategies within ETF managed portfolios.

“ETFs are here to stay,” said Dean Zayed, CEO of Brookstone Capital Management and a conference panelist. “My expectation is to hopefully be a contributor (to the dialog) and to learn from others.”

View more information: https://www.investors.com/etfs-and-funds/etfs/morningstar-etf-conference-the-agenda/

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